No visit to Florence is complete without a saunter down this bridge; lined with old shops jutting precariously over the water, it is difficult to believe you’re on a proper bridge and not just strolling down a narrow street.
Near the Roman crossing, the Old Bridge was, until 1218, the only bridge across the Arno in Florence. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II, it was the only bridge the Germans did not destroy but they bloked access by demolishing the medieval building either side. On 4 November 1966 the bridge survived when the Arno burst its banks.
When the Medici moved from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, they decided they needed a connecting route from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river that enabled them to keep out of contact-heaven for-bid!- with their people. The result was “Vasari’s Corridoio Vasariano, built in 1565 on top of the buildings lining the bridge’s eastern parapet.
Shops have been on the Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century: initially all types-butchers and fishmongers and later tanners, whose industrial waste caused a pretty rank stench. In 1593, Medici Duke Ferdinand I decreed that only gold-smiths and jewellers be allowed on the bridge.
When the shops close their wooden shutters it makes them look like suitcases. As one of the places that Florentines regularly come to for the passeggiata, it is also always full of Senegalese street vendors, hawking fake food.
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